Times photo by Betsy ReasonGreg Simpson, Molly Campbell, Lucinda Ryan (right) and fairy ballerinas from Laura Hayden's School of Dance rehearse for Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park.
Times photo by Betsy Reason

Greg Simpson, Molly Campbell, Lucinda Ryan (right) and fairy ballerinas from Laura Hayden's School of Dance rehearse for Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park.
While audiences of Noblesville Shakespeare in the Park grew to love the intimacy of Seminary Park, they will find it easy to fall in love with the new venue at Federal Hill Commons.

Just ask Shakespeare director, Noblesville's Mark Tumey.

"We feel Federal Hill Commons offers so much more for Shakespeare in the Park, and we are hoping to 'take it to the next level' there," he said.

Yes, literally. But I have been asked not to spoil any surprises for audiences who will attend the 25th anniversary production, which moves to the new First Merchants Pavilion at Federal Hill.

Noblesville Cultural Arts Commission will present a new production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the first play performed by the group a quarter of a century ago. Shakespeare in the Park opens at 8:30 p.m. today with performances also on Friday and Saturday and Aug. 3-5. Admission is free to the family-friendly show.

The amphitheater offers "a huge space compared with the area used at Seminary Park, and we actually had to identify what portion of the stage we would actually use," Tumey said. "Since the stage is further from the audience than at Seminary Park, the use of the stairs and sidewalk became an important directing decision so that we could bring the actors closer."

He said, "We are incorporating ideas so that the audience still feels close to the production."

There is also a multi-leveled stage to perform on, which the cast has used to its advantage.

Also, Tumey said, there will be trained ballerinas, ages 4-10, from Laura Hayden's School of Dance in Cicero, who will play the role of young fairies, featured in their own dances.

The show also incorporates a fight scene, not previously performed with this production, "as well as a Flying Puck," said Tumey.

As far as not to spoil any more of the show, he offered only a hint about "an unexpected dance routine" that he believes "will take the audience's breath away."

Being performed at a new venue also has had its challenges, with lighting, sound, stage preparation, set design and rehearsal space.

"I appreciate the the cooperation we have received from the Parks Department and, although they have their own challenges to resolve with the new venue, we both have the common goal of providing a quality experience for the community," Tumey said.

Tumey has performed in more than 30 community theater productions throughout Central Indiana and the Phoenix area, and three Shakespeare in the Park productions,Romeo and Juliet," "As You Like It," and the 2016 400-Year Celebratory production in Noblesville.

But this is his first time directing Shakespeare in the Park.

"It is quite a bit different sitting in the director's chair," said Tumey, who sat in a lawn chair watching rehearsals earlier this week.

Not only has he found challenges as a director and new venue, he also has a large cast of 21, "22 if you include our dog," he said, dropping another hint about the show.

Tumey said, "I see my role as a director as helping the actors bring this magical show alive for our audience, and to take each individual actor at whatever place they are, and help make them even better. We have a wonderful cast of talented, committed actors and a very strong production team all with the same goal, to present the best production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as we possibly can."

Knowing there will be some audience members who will miss Seminary Park, we also heard from historian David Heighway, who is stage manager for the show. The 57-year-old Noblesville resident has been involved with the open-air production since its beginning in 1993. Noblesville has the longest-running Shakespeare production in Central Indiana and the second longest-running in the state.

"Seminary Park is a pleasant intimate venue, but it lacks facilities and storage, he said. "Some years, we did the show, literally, out of the trunks of cast members' cars. Sets were minimal, which is fine for some performances, but not for something that has become a regional attraction."

He said surveys have shown that about half of the Shakespeare audience is from Noblesville, and about one-fourth from around Hamilton County, and the rest from around the state and beyond.

Heighway said, while he loves Seminary Park, he looks forward to thriving in the new venue, because he said, "We have actually outgrown Seminary Park."

-Contact me at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.